Lobster Pairings with Love from Maine

Gifts from the Maine Coast
Gifts from the Maine Coast

One of the truly wonderful pleasures of traveling to the coast of Maine each year is the anticipation of the perfect summer meal: lobster.

To me, it is as much a sign of summer as the scent of wild roses that line the sea wall, the sand that finds its way into every crevice in the cottage, and the damp towels hanging over the railing.

Chipper has been providing lobster to my family and friends for as long as I can remember. Look up Central Casting for Lobster Fisherman and you will find his picture. He is the real deal. He has the New England twang, the weathered complexion from years of early mornings at sea, and a perpetually cheerful attitude.  Chip is always  smiling, always happy to see you,  and he is the most accurate weather forecaster on the planet.(Sorry, Jeff Hutcheson)

A Palace by Any Other Name
Chipper’s Lobster Shack

The first time I cracked a lobster it was from Chip’s Catch of the day. He held a huge party in his workshop some years back and steamed more lobsters than I had ever seen. His family and friends, his loyal summer friends and their friends feasted on the freshest claws and tails all night, then danced off the garlic butter. One year he took all the kids and a few of the adults out on his boat to show us his favourite lobstering spots.

This year a glut of lobster pushed down the market price making it almost impossible to earn a living.  So Chip took his tasty catches and friendly attitude and opened up his own lobster shack. He steams them on the spot, sells them at bargain prices and sells out pretty much every day. One or two for the night’s feast and one for a homemade lobster roll the day after.

It doesn’t hurt that this year’s catch is the tastiest ever.

Dinner In the Making
Dinner In the Making

So what to pair with your lobster feast, or the next-day delicious lobster roll? Something light and crisp such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris is a good choice for the main event. Tread carefully with the Chardonnays because some can be too creamy for the rich lobster meat. And for day after rolls, you cannot go wrong with some sparkling like Prosecco.

For our first traditional steamed lobster feast, the gals went with a Sauvignon Blanc (rapidly becoming my favourite white this summer).

Bring on the Crisp Coppola
Bring on the Crisp Coppola

Coppola Sauvignon Blanc 2012 Diamond Collection – vibrant, fresh, grassy and crisp.  It was a perfect match and so was the price –  $12.00 (US prices but a good crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc will never steer you wrong). One of my personal favourites is  Dog Point Vineyard 2012 at $22.95.

Pouilly Fuisse Extrordinaire
Pouilly Fuisse Extrordinaire

 

 

Pouilly Fuisse 2011 Louis Jadot from Maconnais, France at $22.00. Citrus and vanilla notes and ever-so-gently oaked that did not overpower. This was a perfect Chardonnay for the meal.

Then Alex arrived…bearing wine. Alex Manikas is the owner of Toronto’s uber steakhouse Bardi’s which has received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence every year since 1994. And he brought two winners.

grothGroth 2012 Sauvignon Blanc from the Napa Valley.  Mama Mia that was  one spectacular wine! Rich, crisp, aromatic and only $19.00. Unfortunately purchased here and not available at the LCBO, but if you are traveling to the US, put it on the list!

Then out came the star of the night. And it was a shining Chardonnay.

The Shining Chardonnay
The Shining Chardonnay

Talbott 2011 Chardonnay Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, Monterey County, California.  This is a big Chardonnay, but so well- balanced, the flavours performed as harmoniously as the Beach Boys in their heyday.  It has a buttery rich feel with notes of pear, peach and the oak did not overwhelm. Thank you Alex.

And for the sparkle..

La Marca Prosecco
La Marca Prosecco

La Marca Prosecco DOC from Italy LCBO $17.95 $13.95 US (ouch) This lovely was perfectly chilled and an ideal pair for just about anything including our day-after Lobster Roll.

Doesn’t it just make you want to visit your nearest lobster pound? If you are ever in on Route 9 between Kennebunkport and Cape Porpoise – drop in on Chipper. You will not go home disappointed!

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The Maine Event; When life’s a beautiful beach

There are times in many of our lives where the pure joy and bliss you feel is hard to describe. Generally they come from time spent with the ones we love, witnessing a wedding or cradling a new-born baby.  And while those are extremely special moments mine came during a recent trip to a beach house in Maine.

stairsGrowing up I was never one of those girls who spent endless hours giggling on the phone with friends and I seemed to understand the ways of boys better than teenage girls.  But as I get older I greatly cherish the relationships I’ve built with a particular group of women introduced to me by my blog writing partner, Lis. Her extremely giving nature draws people in and over the years she’s generously shared her closest friends with me.  And oh what lovely friends they are…smart, funny, accomplished, beautiful and generous of spirit.

beachFor thirty years Lis and her family have rented a beach house in Maine each summer for a couple of weeks enjoying the sun, sand and warm ocean breeze…ok, occasionally the breeze isn’t so warm since we are talking about the Atlantic.  This year she arranged the house for an extra week themed around wine, women and song and invited 5 friends including myself.

cartThe six of us drove down in a caravan of two cars and the laughter of the road set the tone for the week along with our first shopping trip to the liquor store.  I know it looks like a lot but we thought it would last, ha who were we kidding. There were equal amounts of white and red from around the world and if you’re looking closely even a bottle gin in the corner of the cart to start off cocktail hour.

all on the beachMornings were meant for long walks on the beach (exercise was necessary after all the food and wine) but no pressure if you just wanted to laze around the house and have a second cup of coffee. Days were for sitting in the sun, reading beach books, swimming in the ocean and sipping wine.

lynnOur nights were filled with delicious dinners, more wine and singing along to Lis’ amazing playlist. Some days we even sat on the beach long after everyone else had left just chatting as the sun went down. And as the tide went out again in the late evening we sometimes snuck back down to the beach whispering and laughing as we walked in the dark along the water’s edge.

puzzleIt was all so uncomplicated and easy as if we’d been friends for life.  Everyone chipped in with the cooking and cleaning and there was even a big jigsaw puzzle on the table that everyone just seemed to pick away at in hopes of finding that one elusive piece nobody could find. I’m extremely competitive so it almost killed me to leave before the puzzle was finished.

At the end of the week I was the first to leave and I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and believe when I say I’m not the mushy type. But at a certain age when you start to feel like the world doesn’t see you anymore these women made me feel amazing not only about myself but the possibilities of what life still has to offer.

book&wineSitting there with my toes in the sand, the sound of the waves washing against the shore I realized life couldn’t be more perfect.  So for all the times life lets you down remember there will be other times when life’s a beautiful beach.  We’ve only been apart for a short time but I’m missing my marvelous friends and hope this is the beginning of an amazing new tradition.

 

 

 

 

 

Pinot and Pasta; The Perfect Pair

0My husband loves pasta.  Pretty much any pasta but one of his favourite dishes is Spaghetti alla Carbonara (Spaghetti with Eggs and Bacon) and it’s super simple to make.  Not only is it delicious, it takes hardly any time and as he does most of the cooking during the week I’m happy to oblige when he requests this dish.

Since every great pasta dish deserves a good Italian wine this is no exception and you even add a bit of the wine to the recipe. Before I started cooking I popped downstairs to see what was in the wine rack (I dream of a cellar but I’m not there yet) because I generally have more red than white on hand.  0-4

There was a bottle of Tommasi Le Rosse Pinot Grigio there and I figured it would be perfect for this dish.  Generally recommended to go with a salad plate or soft cheeses I knew this cool crisp wine would beautifully offset the creaminess of the pasta dish.  It’s available in ON at the LCBO for $14.95 but it’s also available in QC, BC, AB and MB but the cost varies.  You can also order it through RKW Wine Imports by the case if you’re interested.

While recipes vary there are a few key ingredients you’ll need for the dish; cheese (Romano, parmesan, or a combination), egg yolks (or whole eggs), some sort of cured, fatty pork (bacon or pancetta) and black pepper.  Here’s my recipe:

2 tbsp Extra Virgin Oil, 2 tbsp butter, 8 strips bacon cut into 1/4 inch strips, 1/2 cup dry white wine, 3 egg yolks, 1 whole egg, 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese, 1 large clove garlic, freshly ground black pepper (lots and lots) and 1 lb. spaghetti

0-2Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil and generously salt it.  Then take a large bowl and whisk the 3 yolks and whole egg together.  Get a large pasta bowl and whisk the 3 yolks and whole egg together, grate in the cheese and add some freshly ground pepper. I usually like to have this done so you can add the cooked bacon to this mixture (of course you’ll want to sip on some wine while your working).

0-3Put the butter in the pan, and on medium heat saute the bacon until well browned but not crisp.  Turn down the heat and add the minced garlic so it gently cooks not fries.  You’ll notice the only salt is in the pasta water because since most bacon is already well salted you don’t really need to add more salt.  Add the wine and continue cooking tip the liquid is slightly reduced.  Take the pan off the burner and let it cool so you don’t scramble the eggs when you pour it into the egg and cheese mixture.  Once your pasta is cooked al dente, drain well and immediately pour into the egg, cheese, bacon mixture – the heat from the pasta will cook the eggs but remember to toss continuously so the eggs don’t scrabble.  Serve with a generous amount of more freshly ground pepper.

Eat immediately but try not to eat the entire bowl (I will confess at our house there is rarely left overs).  Oh…and of course enjoy the bottle of cool crisp Pinot Grigio.

 

Riesling Reise; A trip to Germany

kevininhelmetMy son Kevin, a hard hat diver stationed in Korea recently called to say he was being sent to Hamburg, Germany for some specialized training.  Having not seen him in a year I quickly jumped at the chance to fly over and see him, figuring Germany was a bit closer than Korea. Also, being the city of my birth I was looking forward to seeing it again and reconnecting with some old friends.

Living in Korea where a good sausage is hard to find, Kevin was super excited to be heading to the land of wurst, schnitzel and beer.  I on the other hand am not a beer drinker so I figured it was a good time to taste the wine of the Rhineland and went about sampling Riesling at every opportunity.  Since I was only there for a week I didn’t really have the time to travel too far so a wine tasting tour was out of the question but I wasn’t too worried since most restaurants offered a fairly good selection.

A white grape variety that originated in the Rhine region of Germany it’s used to make dry, semi-sweet, sweet and sparkling white wines. Seldom oaked they are among the world’s top 20 most grown varietals and often included in the “top three” white wine varieties together with Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc.

streetsignWhile my son attended his training program I spent the first few days wondering the city and found the street where I spent the first years of my life.  It seemed only vaguely familiar but emotional none the less as it made me feel connected to my past and especially to my parents who have long since passed.

RieslingI walked for hours wanting to get a feel for the city and came across a wine store where I popped in to check out the selection and speak o the owner.  She said one of the most popular Rieslings they sold was by J.B. Becker and that it was so popular she was actually sold out at the moment.  I opted for a bottle of Kallfelz Riesling to try and since my son doesn’t like wine there was no reason to share this lovely find.  Albert Kallfelz is actually the most widely decorated Riesling producer in all of Germany and comes from a family who has been producing wine for over 500 years.

busesKevin and I had a wonderful time together enjoying the sights and sounds of the city.  We did all the touristy things like taking the city’s double decker bus and taking the harbour tour.

wurstThe visit was much too short but Kevin’s hunger for bratwurst and beer had been satisfied and I was thrilled to have spent some quality time with my son who I had sorely missed.  There’s definately a special bond between mothers and sons but I know my husband and Kevin’s brother also miss him so for next year we’re planning a half-way family gathering in Hawaii.  It should be great fun having everyone together…sun, sand, surfing and more but do they have good wine in Hawaii?

Progressive Dinner; Fun With Food and Wine

When you live in the burbs and downtown is an eighty dollar cab ride away, going out with friends to a nice restaurant can get expensive.  So how do you enjoy a delicious meal,  good wine, the company of great friends without the big bill?

0Well, a few years ago I approached three couples in my neighbourhood that we regularly hang out with and suggested we form a dinner club to get us through the long boring winter and they loved the idea.  Once a month we hold a progressive dinner, traditionally done by starting at one person’s house for appetizers, moving to the next for the main meal and again to another house for dessert.  This seemed like way too much work so I changed the rules.

0-1Each month one couple holds the dinner at their house and they’re in charge of the main meal while the others provide the appetizer, soup or salad and then dessert. We rotate the houses and who makes what, ensuring the same person doesn’t get stuck making the same thing each time.  Everyone gets dressed up (no jeans allowed) so it feels like a special evening and the dinners are themed on international cuisine, or even an event like the Oscars.  Each course is paired with a wine, beer or cocktail that suits the dish or at least we give it the good old college try.

One members of the group is a true foodie (I think his TV is stuck on the Food Network) and this time around he thought we should switch it up so he came up with a bunch of cooking challenges and then picked four out of a hat.  Here’s what we wound up with:

  1. Food made with fire
  2. Breakfast for Dinner
  3. Pizza as a comfort food
  4. Food based on a colour

The categories were assigned and you could get as creative as you wanted and here’s what we ended up with:

  1. Chicken skewers and roasted veggies on the grill paired with Cave Spring Riesling from Ontario
  2. Devilled eggs with smoked salmon & capers along with white and sweet potato Rosti – a Swiss hash brown paired with Italian Proseco
  3. Wings with Blue Cheese dip on a pizza -this was amazing and the hit of the night (no wine – the boys said it had to be beer) see recipe below
  4. RED velvet cake pair with Inniskillin Riesling Ice Wine

There was lots of good wine, and some not so good (Girl’s Night Out is not really a wine – more of a cooler if you must know) lots of laughs and best of all we could all just walk home

Buffalo Wing Style Chicken Pizza
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cooked and cubed
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (2 ounce) buffalo wing sauce
1 (8 ounce) bottle blue cheese salad dressing (Renee’s is great for this)
1 (16 inch) prepared pizza crust
1 (8 ounce) package shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
Cook up the 2 chicken breasts in a pan then cube
In a medium bowl combine the cubed chicken, melted butter and wing sauce. Mix well.
Spread half the bottle of salad dressing over crust, then top with chicken mixture and sprinkle with shredded cheese.
Bake in preheated oven until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly, about 5 to 10 minutes. Let set a few minutes before slicing, and serve.

 

Wednesday Wine Picks from La Belle Province

It’s enough to force you off the street and into the closest SAQ (Quebec’s answer to the LCBO).Excuses, excuses …. pretty much any time you visit Montreal is a good reason for a stop at the SAQ.

 

Searching for Wine in an April Snowstorm

 

My mother has gotten used to the fact that even after spending five hours in the car, my first pit stop is the small but well-stocked liquor store around the corner from her place. She stopped taking offence after I made sure I also stocked her up with her favourites.

They have their version of Vintages. Many have a tasting bar. And they have incredibly helpful staff. But there are a few differences:

Fans of French wines will be overjoyed by the SAQ which has a richer selection of wines from France. There are Italian wines that are only available on consiognment in Ontario. But sorry Quebec, whenever you can find the same wines in both provinces, the LCBO version is typically cheaper.

Another difference – the tasting philosophy. LCBO is very strict about making sure you taste no more than a total of 2 oz of wine (4 x 1.2 oz – that math combination I have learned well!).

In Quebec, it’s pretty much self-serve. Load a few bucks on to your tasting card and keep tasting until your card runs dry. Now I haven’t spent a whole day there, so maybe someone would eventually get thrown out, but the expectation is you know better than to drink too much at the liquor store.

Saint JosephThis time I tasted a FANTASTIC Saint-Joseph from the Northern Rhone quite aptly named Hedonism. SO good that a bottle of this sexy red ended up in the cart. 100% Syrah, it exudes luscious strawberries and spice. This one is medium to full bodied like most Saint-Joseph reds and would go nicely with a juicy beef burger or beef stew. Yum.  WIne Spectator gave it an 89 rating.   

Alcohol 13%  $27.40 SAQ           

 

 Here are the some of  others that made it into my Mom’s personal tasting room.

valley
Valley of the Giants

Valley of the Giants Cabernet-Merlot 2009 from Western Australia $16.95  This very affordable Australian was flying off the shelves. Excellent value.

 

 

Hardy's Butcher Block
Hardy’s Butcher’s Gold

Hardy’s Chronicle 3, Butcher’s Gold Shiraz/Sangiovese 2011 $16.95

An Australian classic grape meets the varietal that is Tuscany’s claim to fame. This bold fruity wine packs a punch at 14% alcohol with herbal notes.

Food pairing: Beef Tenderloin, Flank steak

 

   Enjoy the picks and drop us a line with a favourite of your own!

Wine Songs: Grape Harmonies

Grape Inspiration
Grape Inspiration

There are so many ways to appreciate a good glass of wine. You can buy a case, tell a friend, and if you are a musician, write a song about it. How many songs can you think of with wine in the title?

The most bizarre, best known,with a title that makes me strangely sad:

Spill the Wine– Eric Burdon and War (1970)

According to Wikipedia – the inspiration came from Lonnie Jordan – founding member of the band War, who accidentally spilled a glass of wine all over the mixing board. Rock and Roll legend Eric Burdon thought it was so funny, he and Jordan wrote a song about it. That explains the Wine, but not the Gnome, which always made me think of Twin Peaks.

This title makes me happy:
Red, Red Wine – UB40 – (1984)

Neil Diamond wrote and performed this song lamenting a lost love by drowning his sorrows in red wine. It made it to number 62 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in 1968. UB40’s reggae-style version spun the tune to the top of the charts around the world, hitting number one in the US when it was re-released in 1988.

 

 

Days of Wine and Roses – Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer (1962)

This song picked up an Oscar for best original song from the movie of the same name. It went on to be performed by greats Frank Sinatra and Andy Williams. The film was a brilliant and tragic tale of two average people whose lives are devastated by alcoholism. (ok, that’s a real downer for a wine blog – but the performances are truly incredible).

How deep is the love:

Poison and Wine – Civil Wars – 2009

This haunting tune by the fabulous Nashville duo John Paul White and Joy Williams looks at the good, the bad and the ugly of relationships (and I firmly believe the wine part = the good). I first heard it on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. The song is on their album Barton Hollow which debuted as #1 on the ITunes Singer-Songwriter chart.

images

Cracklin’ Rosie –Neil Diamond – 1970

Wait a minute – I thought this song was about a spunky gal named Rosie or a store-bought love doll. Wrong! Cracklin’ Rosie is a bottle of cheap sparkling wine with a Canadian connection. This was Diamond’s first #1 hit and he got the idea from a folk tale about a native tribe in Northern Canada where the men far out-numbered the women (have you ever been to Fort McMurray?). The guys who didn’t get the girl on a Saturday night– got a bottle of Cracklin’ Rosie. Re-reading the lyrics with that in mind gives the song a whole new perspective.

“Cracklin’ Rose, get on board/ We’re gonna ride till there ain’t no more to go/ Taking it slow/ Lord, don’t you know/Have made me a time with a poor man’s lady”

Those are just some of the titles that hit the charts. Imagine how many wine-inspired tunes sounded great ….until the morning after.

Got another favourite wine title? Send it to us!